News Story

Underfunded? Detroit, Benton Harbor, Flint Schools Got Far More Than State Average

The average district got $10,687 per student last year, but Flint got $26,916

Michigan State University professor Katharine Strunk claims the state underfunds public schools, especially districts that serve Michigan’s poorest communities.

School funding data from the Michigan Department of Education paints a very different picture, however.

Strunk said in a March 28 interview with Crain’s Detroit Business: “I know everyone is tired of the refrain that we need more money, but any way you look at it, Michigan underfunds its schools — and underfunds its most traditionally underserved districts the most. There’s not a question in my mind that if we were able to provide increased compensation to teachers in Michigan it would really help. And if we could target the increased compensation especially to those districts like the partnership schools — Benton Harbor, Detroit, Flint — that they would be able to use that and keep teachers and recruit them and retain them.”

The school districts that serve Benton Harbor, Detroit and Flint are among the most well-funded in the state, however. These districts’ funding is no secret, either, as the actual dollar amounts are clearly shown in data available from the Michigan Department of Education.

In 2019-20, per-pupil funding was $27,916 in the Flint school district, $20,884 for Benton Harbor and $16,158 at the Detroit district. (The numbers reflect funding from state, local and federal sources.) All three districts received well above the state average ($10,687 per pupil), and this has been the case for several years.

When asked to comment, Strunk said in an email: “There are many ways to look at this question, but I think it’s important to look at relative costs for educating students, and working with existing physical capital, etc. I urge you to take a look at EPIC’s recent Year 2 evaluation report from our study of the state’s Partnership districts. I think you will find it useful.”

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.